Each day, we hear on the news of leaders who are meant to care for their citizens, use increasingly divisive language to promote their own agendas, and then reports of riots, bombings, shootings and abuse soon follow. It is easy to think that our world is rapidly becoming more inhumane. Yet, if we look at today’s readings, and look at the reasons behind our church’s creation of today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (better known as the Feast of Christ the King), we discover that for as long as humanity has organized itself into leaders and subjects, the temptation to abuse power has existed, and the consequences of that abuse is never far behind.
The feast of Christ the King is relatively new to our liturgical calendar (1925), and it arose from the church’s growing concern for the growing influence of secular leaders and influential thinkers proclaiming themselves to have a God-like supremacy. (Hardly a new phenomenon in human history!) The encyclical that accompanied this new feast emphasized that the teaching and authority of Jesus Christ must be the power that “reigns in our hearts,… and wills,” and to be vigilant, as the model of Jesus’ “kingship” may often be in total opposition to what is shown to us by the leaders of our secular world.
The model of Jesus’ kingship was unwittingly demonstrated at his crucifixion when Pilate had the words “King of the Jews” nailed to his cross to mock his “obvious” inability to lead anyone. Those who passed by would read the sign as they witnessed him suffer the powerlessness of an agonizing death. Ironically, this sign came to define the true power of Christ; a kingship not defined by physical might, or fearful intimidation used by most leaders of the time, but defined by the power of love, forgiveness and sacrifice. The kingship of Jesus was based on a willingness to become vulnerable and suffer for the sake of others; knowing that love and forgiveness had a power far greater than that of fear and intimidation. The title of King may have begun as a mockery, but “Christ the King” became the pledge of allegiance for the followers of Christ.
The feast of Christ the King is directed not only to those in positions of power, but a reminder to all that we have the power to effect the lives of others. We don’t have to be CEO’s or political leaders to know that we wield a powerful tool in the choice of our daily words and actions. A simple example exists in the messages we choose to post (or forward) on social media. We have the power to insult or to give hope; the power to pass on demeaning humour or to delete them. We have the power to ignore messages of hate or to speak up for God’s truth of inclusive mercy. What is the “authority” that motivates our choices?
The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe may sound grandiose and removed for our ordinary lives, but it is a sober reminder for us to take the time to step back and ask ourselves, “Who or what influences my daily decisions or directs the bulk of my energies? Whose influence and authority motivates my words and actions?” If they’re not rooted in love, mercy and hope, I may need to rethink the words I speak and live by. I need to remind myself that through my baptism I promised to make the love of Christ the “authority” in my life.